2022 marks the tenth year of the Columinate Co-op Cafe! Over the past decade, the Co-op Cafe, sponsored by National Co-op Grocers, has provided an opportunity for members of the cooperative movement to come together, share stories, learn from others’ experiences, and tackle collective challenges. This year is no exception.
The 2022 series kicked off in May with invigorating conversations around how the cooperative principles could advance our commitment to a more equitable future. Co-op members from across the country joined these discussions and grappled with questions such as: Do we need an 8th cooperative principle aimed at equity and inclusion?
Among the participants were members of the Weaver Street Market board of directors, including the board chair, Allanah Hines. Allanah is currently the head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Weaver Street Market, where she has worked across the co-op (in the store and in operations) over the past fifteen years. She is also a founding member of the E.Q.U.I.T.Y. Alliance that has been leading an internal justice movement at Weaver Street Market by increasing diversity and inclusion within the company.
For the past two years, Weaver Street Market has been working intentionally to further embed the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout all facets of their operations. “We were ready to lead the charge on DEI. We worked with a consultant to make changes operationally, but after that we still needed to figure out how DEI applied to board work.” Allanah and the rest of the board used the spring 2022 Co-op Cafe as an opportunity and a chance to continue their conversations around embodying diversity, equity, and inclusion within the board.
Going into the Co-op Cafe, Allanah and the board were highly intentional about their participation. They found a session that the whole board could attend together and even worked through some guiding questions to jump-start their thinking. “We wanted to be more than active listeners during this session; we wanted to be able to incorporate lessons learned into our board work.” And they did.
Following the Cafe, Allanah and the rest of the board had a “really, really good conversation” about applying their takeaways to their current and future DEI work. “It was really nice to be guided into this larger conversation [by the Co-op Cafe],” shares Allanah. “Each board member was able to bring what they got from their breakout room to our larger discussion and ask: how can we apply this? Ultimately, we agreed that it’s more than just saying, ‘yes, we want to be more diverse.’ It’s about how we apply equity to the board and how we brand inclusion in our everyday work.”
After having such a good conversation, the challenge was ensuring their commitment did not get lost in daily practice. The board and the general manager were eager to implement practices that fostered inclusivity. Some changes were adopted quickly. “We don’t need to go through the process and policy to say that we are going to state our pronouns at the beginning of each board meeting. It’s just what we are going to do,” explains Allanah. Other more long-term goals were identified, like hosting board meetings at times when workers can actually attend, and analyzing how the legacy of leadership on the board could impact participation.
Some of the most important DEI work is harder to see, but that doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made, explains Allanah. “There’s foundational work going on everyday within DEI. You just might not notice it. Imagine there is a crack in the wall. You may or may not notice it, right? Then it gets fixed, and you still may or may not notice it! But, it’s fixed.” A lot of the change they are working on at Weaver Street Market is about creating a higher level of understanding within leaderships and workers alike—and encouraging curiosity and the ability to come to the table, regardless of their level of knowledge on the topic. “DEI is not a light subject. You can’t just review it once a month and say, everyone gets it!”
Weaver Street Market and other participants will be continuing their conversations on deepening our commitment to equity at our upcoming Fall Columinate Co-op Cafes on October 19, 22, and 26. It is a great opportunity to start or deepen a conversation on this topic with your board members, workers, and leaders. You can register with the links provided below. We can’t wait to see you there!
Register for October 19, 2022: https://columinate.coop/upcoming_events/co-op-cafe-2022-10-19-22/
Register for October 22, 2022: https://columinate.coop/upcoming_events/co-op-cafe-2022-10-22-22/
Register for October 26, 2022: https://columinate.coop/upcoming_events/co-op-cafe-2022-10-26-22/